Customers enjoying Ailana shave ice treats in the warm Hawaiian sun

With its year-round warm weather, Hawaii is famous for producing one of its most popular treats for young and old – the shaved ice. And growing up here, I craved the fine ice shavings in a simple paper cone and drenched in colorful sugary (and sticky) syrups that brightened the day.

I never thought anything would be better than the straight-forward shaved ice, especially the classic rainbow (created by just three colored syrups: blue/vanilla, red/strawberry, and yellow/banana). But in my last trip, I discovered the shave ice bowls of Ailana.

Ailana Shave Ice is a 20-month-old store run by a husband-and-wife team in a tiny strip across from the Ala Moana Shopping Center. They serve the traditional shaved ice most Hawaiians grew up with, but their more popular servings are the shaved ice bowls with original creations like mocha or peanut butter caramel.

Owner Gene working the powdered snow ice machine

They’re bowls of powdered snow ice drenched in home-made syrups and often mixed with red azuki beans, a scoop of vanilla ice cream, miniature mochi medallions, and sweetened condensed milk. This type of shaved ice is actually similar to ice desserts in Japan or Taiwan. (In fact, the snow ice bowls are gaining popularity in the Bay Area with several Taiwan-inspired stores selling the ice treats.)

When I visited Ailana, I ordered the Uji Kintoki ($4.50), a green tea shaved ice that is common at some Japanese restaurants. I asked the owners if people really finished the huge mountain of snow ice and they said yes, and I gave it my best finishing nearly all of the ice, azuki beans and mochi.

My Uji Kintoki mountain of snow ice dessert

This shaved ice treat was incredibly fulfilling, refreshing in its obvious way, but satisfying in the many treats in the bowl. And with the many special concoctions, Ailana is definitely a spot to hunt down, especially on a hot afternoon. Which again, in Hawaii, always.

Ailana Shave Ice, 1430 Kona St., Honolulu. PH: 808.955.8881,

Creating a snow ice dessert with syrup and then azuki beans

Topping it off with sweetened condensed milk

Creating the Uji Kintoki with home-made green tea syrup

Adding miniature mochi cakes

5 Responses to Tackling a Mountain of Shaved Ice at Ailana

  1. I have to say, this may be the first shaved ice I have every encountered that I actually want to eat – perhaps it is due to the poor excuse-of-product served at local swimmings pools while growing up… But this looks delicious 🙂

  2. Carolyn Jung says:

    I looks like a volcano! Wow, that’s some shave ice. I like how they make their own toppings, especially because I find so many of those premade syrups way too sweet.

    • Ben Ben says:

      I agree, the regular shave ice places that buy syrup is too sweet for me. I usually don’t finish what’s left at the bottom.

  3. This post is so fetish-worthy, I’ve been inspired to include it in my Friday Food Fetish blog. If you have any objections, please let me know